As my time in Jyväskylä is coming to an end, I just wanted to reflect on what life is like here. First of all, Jyväskylä is a city in central Finland. With a population of 138,000, it is the largest city in the region and I think the 5th largest city in Finland (Finland only has a population of 5 million). It actually feels about the same size as Bellingham and as I’ve mentioned earlier it looks similar too, so my environment is not too different. Part of me regrets choosing to study in Finland because of this, but I’ve made so many amazing friends that I can’t really complain.
Considering the size of the city and the location, there aren’t too many unique things to do, but it’s a college town and there are always events going on.
I would say one of the biggest things here is hockey. Jyväskylä’s professional team is really good and it’s something people here are proud of. I’ve been to a couple games with my friends and it’s always a lot of fun. Players are always fighting each other for no good reason and the referees just let them go at it. I think hockey is my new favorite sport!
There are also various winter sports you can participate in when it gets below freezing, but unfortunately it’s been too warm to do anything while I’ve been here. My apartment is actually a 10-minute walk from a ski slope. To be honest, it’s basically a glorified hill, and nothing compared to what we have in Washington. But it would have been so cool to be able to just wake up, walk down the street and go skiing! Also, the lake freezes over in the winter and you can go ice skating on it, but I won’t be here when that happens either. I really hate climate change.
Apart from that, there’s the typical things like bowling or going out to bars and clubs. I’m actually really going to miss being able to go to the bar with my friends and just chat. Unfortunately I still have to wait a whole year when I get home because America is weird.
And every Wednesday, the club has free entry for international students so many of my friends go every now and then. I’ve only been once, and although I enjoyed it, it was really draining so I haven’t been back since. But I have really enjoyed going to various parties in my building. It’s been a good way for me to meet the other international students.
Another thing we seem to do quite often is have potlucks. The international student organization had organized an international dinner in which students were to bring dishes from their home country. A lot of us weren’t around that day, so we organized our own international dinner! I didn’t know what American food meant, nor would it have been anything unique since we get everything from other cultures, so I just made Indian food. I made beef cutlets that my grandma makes, and it turned out alright considering it was my first time making it!
I also realized I would be missing Thanksgiving for the third year in a row, so I talked to the other two Americans on my floor (best friends from Missouri) and we organized a potluck with about ten other people.
We didn’t want to do turkey, so I baked mac and cheese as a main. We also had salad, sausages, mashed potatoes and gravy as well as some nice deserts including pumpkin pie, banana bread, and gingerbread cookies. To everyone’s surprise, we actually did end up having a turkey. Our Italian friend, Francesca got creative with her pizza…
I still haven’t made any Finnish friends, but I really don’t expect to. Us international students are in our own bubble and we never have any interactions with Finnish students. Now I won’t judge the international students at Western so harshly. I understand them now!
Honestly though, I do regret not making more of an effort to try to meet the locals and better understand the culture, but there’s only so much I could do. All the clubs and activities involving Finnish people are in Finnish. If I have the opportunity to study or work abroad again, I will make sure I get more involved in the community.